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Mental Health

More than 9,785 people presented to hospital due to self-harm last year

There has been an increase in self-harm among young people aged 10-24 years.

A TOTAL OF 9,785 people presented to hospital due to self-harm in 2018. 

The National Self-Harm Registry Ireland recorded 12,588 presentations to hospital due to self-harm nationally, with some people hospitalised more than once. 

The latest figures show that the rate of individuals presenting to hospital following self-harm was 210 per 100,000 – 6% higher than in 2017.

There has been a 12% increase on statistics from 2007, the year before the economic recession.

The increase in hospital-presenting self-harm in 2018 was observed across all age groups and for both men and women.

The highest rates of self-harm was recorded amongst young people: the report shows there was a further increase in self-harm among young people aged 10-24 years, particularly for males.

The registry report released today on World Mental Health Day, also recorded that 72% of people who presented following self-harm received a mental health assessment in the hospital emergency department.

However, considerable variation in the management of self-harm was observed
across hospitals, with the report recommending that ongoing support is warranted for the implementation of standardised care. 

Dr Eve Griffin, research fellow at the National Suicide Research Foundation states that the increase in the involvement of illegal substances in self-harm presentations is of concern.

“Given the association between cannabis consumption and the development of psychosis, depressive disorders and suicidal behaviour among young people in particular, policies which address use of illegal substances should be developed as a priority,” she said. 

Professor Ella Arensman, research professor at the School of Public Health UCC and chief scientist at the National Suicide Research Foundation said the increasing trend of self-harm among children and adolescents requires an urgent response. 

Mental health programme for schools

She called for the rollout of an evidence-based mental health promotion programme in all schools in Ireland to be prioritised.

Calls for better mental health programmes come as the Mental Health Commission outlines how the “wholly inadequate” rehabilitation and recovery service for those suffering with mental illness “angers and frustrates patients”.

A new report shows that there are 23 rehabilitation teams nationally, which is just 48% of what is required under current mental health policy

Of those teams, none are staffed to recommended levels, according to the author of the Commission’s latest report Dr Susan Finnerty.

“Many areas have no access to rehabilitation services, leaving people with enduring mental illness no prospect of reaching their full potential, attaining employment or education, a satisfying social and community life, or living in suitable housing with appropriate levels of support,” she said. 

While the government’s 2006 mental health policy, A Vision for Change, included the development of specialist rehabilitation and recovery mental health services, the report found that there has been minimum improvement in the number of rehabilitation teams in Ireland over the last decade.

“It is also important to note that A Vision for Change was written 13 years ago and does not reflect the development of rehabilitation services internationally and in line with current best practice,” added Dr Finnerty.

Mental health units 

The report also referenced that there had been no specialised inpatient rehabilitation units in the country until recently.

It noted that two independent facilities have been opened in Dublin and Cork, with beds paid for by the HSE, thereby making them available to all public patients.

However, Dr Finnerty said this results in patients being put into “out-of-area placement of people” away from their families and communities. 

“This practice, which was started a number of years ago by the NHS, has been severely criticised internationally by regulatory bodies, the Royal College of Psychiatrists, and a number of mental health organisations,” said the chief executive of the Mental Health Commission John Farrelly.

He said evidence shows moving those with mental health illnesses far from home has a detrimental impact on their recovery. 

The findings state that if an appropriate rehabilitation service is not initiated, then people will likely remain in continuing care or overly supported accommodation, with the consequent de-skilling and “increased institutionalisation” that this brings.

Others will be left with families, often with ageing parents, many of whom will not be able to provide the support and care needed, stated the report. 

The Mental Health Commission has written to the HSE seeking an action plan to address the concerns raised in the report.

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